In recent months, the nation's economy has slowly spiraled downward, creating a large number of "casualties" by the way of layoffs and hiring freezes.
"There are numerous factors that contribute to an increase in unemployed workers," Indiana Department of Workforce Development Communications Director Marc Lotter told The Brazil Times. "The slowing national and global economies have had a widespread effect, especially in the industrial Midwest states."
Since January 2008, the number of unemployed workers in Clay County has increased more than 50 percent from 908 to 1,423 in January 2009, which is the most up-to-date information available.
On the state level, the number of unemployed has nearly doubled in the 13-month span from 168,548 to 319,801.
"There has been a decrease in all sectors of the workforce," Lotter said. "The biggest impact areas have mainly been the manufacturing and retail sectors."
Since 1990, Clay County has historically had a larger unemployment rate than the state. In fact, there have been only 11 months in that span the state had a larger unemployment rate and on five other occasions, the rates have been equal.
Lotter told The Brazil Times unemployment rates tend to be higher than the state average in smaller counties because the impact of one lost job is greater.
"Smaller workforces are subject to show a bigger effect during employment swings," he said. "While the numbers may not sway as much on the state or national level, the effect of a booming or struggling economy is about the same across the board."
In January 2009, Clay County's unemployment rate was 11 percent, which is the first time in a number of years the rate has hit double digits. The rate had topped 9 percent only twice since 1990 (March 1991 -- 9.1 percent, January 2005 -- 9.3 percent).
However, Clay County is about in the middle of the road in comparison with Indiana's other 91 counties. The county currently rates 58th in non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate as Noble, Lagrange and Elkhart counties have the three worst rates in the state at 17.9, 18.0 and 18.3 percent, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, Daviess County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 5.9 percent.
Lotter said rates are not seasonally adjusted in any Indiana county because the workforces are not high enough to be significantly affected by seasonal work. But, he did add rates tend to fluctuate during certain points in the year based on the weather.
"In the winter months, rates are typically a little higher because it is during the non-construction season," Lotter told The Brazil Times. "There is also another small spike in the summer because bus drivers and cafeteria workers are not technically employed during those months, plus it is the time when manufacturers tend to revamp operations."
The state is not faring as well, sitting 43rd with a rate of 9.9 percent in January 2009. Wyoming has the lowest unemployment rate at 4.8 percent, while Michigan ranks the worst at 12.5 percent.
Lotter said counties in North Central Indiana -- most notably Noble, Lagrange and Elkhart -- have felt an even stronger effect from the dwindling economy in part because of the entire collapse of the Recreational Vehicle industry.
"No other state is exhibiting the effects of a massive collapse the way this region in Indiana has," he said.
While the state is flirting with hitting double digits for an unemployment rate, it has seen worse.
Since 1976, there have been 29 months in which the state's unemployment rate has been greater than 10 percent, all coming between May 1980 and January 1984, and topping out at 13.5 percent in January 1983.
The lowest rate in the state since 1976 was 2.3 percent in both September and October 2000, while the lowest rate for Clay County since 1990 came in October 1998 at 3.2 percent.
One odd anomaly encompassing the increase in unemployment rates is how the number of eligible workers in the labor force had decreased.
The labor force in Clay County topped out in October 1995 at 13,492, while it is was only 12,910 in December 2008. The state has also seen a dip in the labor force in recent months as the number has decreased more than 60,000 just since July 2008, going from 3,280,395 to 3,219,681 in January.
"Many factors also affect the number of workers in the labor force," Lotter told The Brazil Times. "It may fluctuate because of people moving out of the area or state, as well as those retiring and no longer participating in the workforce."
Since January 2008, increases and decreases in the unemployment rate of the state have almost mirrored that of Clay County's.
While economics can be a tough aspect of life to figure out, one could deduce that how it affects the state as a whole may soon enough affect the workers in Clay County.